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SNOW AND STARVATION

BLUFF SEALERS RETURN

AUCKLAND ISLAND ADVENTURES

[Special to tiie Stah.J

BLUFF, October 31. What AA’as regarded as the best-equipped sealing parly mat ever left Bluff sailed from this port on the 30th June in the brigantine Rachel Cohen for the AucklaiM Islands, and have returned to Bluff via tho Nuggets after a hazardous but fairly successful cruise. Their tally tor the season Avas 1,260 skins, made up ot 700 fur skins and 650 hair skins. Interviewed by a ‘Star’ reporter, they gave a most interesting description of their adventures.

—Equipment. —■ Tho party included several good old sealing names, and was made up as follows; —G. Murphy (leader), M. Cross, H. Harwood, M. Moon, R. Waitiri, R. King, G. dpencer, and M. Topi. Amongst the appliances of the party were a motor launch capable of ringing up 10 knots per hour, a whaleboat 60ft in _ length, and electric torches and lamps; also many other appliances that tvero not in vogue 30 years ago. Three days after leaving Bluff’ they picked up the Aucklands, and on the 6th July dropped anchor in Port Ross. The party had spent tiie trip down making seal hooks and clubs, preparing tor a good start. —First Blood. —

On the 6th, at Port Ross, they' came across a young sea-lion which gaye some of the young colts a chance of trying their hand. After two or three hits and misses first blood was successfully drawn, ihe first effort was made at Enderby Island, where a day was profitably spent m knocking over about 40 hair seals. They are worth about 4s a skin, and the profit on each (clear of ship) is only about 2s od—scarcely worth the labor of killing and skinning. —Enderby Island. —

At Enderby the graves of the victims of the Derry Castle wreck were found m good order, guarded by the figurehead of the ill-fated vessel. This Meg Mernhes figurehead is beginning to rot away, however. A large amount of wreckage was washed up on the shore, including half a. wheel, but it could not be identified as belonging to any particular vessel. An unusual find was made of two unexploacd 181b shells with copper attached to them, indicating that some warship has been using Enderby Island as a target. Boih shells have been brought to Bluff. —ln Earnest. — Next dav, on the way to a rookery on tho West Coast, they camo across an old wig, and on getting on to the rookery they were soon amongst the real thing in fur seals. Murphy used a revolver, but it scared too many seals away before the men could get at them, and that weapon was tabooed for thn rest of the trip. Ihf good old silent way with hook and dub was found, as in tho past, to be the best In one day they got 20 seals, and next day the} increased the tally for tiie rookery to slightly over 30 skins. —A Rough Time.— While there was an easterly_ slant it was derided to have a try at Disappointment Island, several miles west of the main island. Waitiri and Murphy went back overland to Port Ross to get the launch round for the attempt, and also to take aboard the party and the skins. Unfortunately, it came on to blow from the. westward, with snow. The launch had to make hack to Port Ross, and the partv had to struggle back over tho bibs through bogs and snow. They had no shelter, and had to sleep the night in their oilsk'us in the snow. They made for Port Ross in pairs, and arrived dead beat. Spencer and Topi were missing for a time, but they struggled into Port Ross worn out. The cold 'was perishing, and their hoots were full of melted snowwater and tho ground was freezing hard. It was' anything but a pleasant experience, and they had to leave the skins behind to be picked up a fortnight later. For several days they knocked round Port Ross, and bagged a few hair seals. —Smith Harbor.— Early in August it was decided to caiiv out a raid from Smith Harbor, and a tent was pitched. To read) the rookie y it was necessary to cut a tiaci-r through the bush and to carry 125 fathoms of rope to get up and down the dili'e. The cutting party (Murphy and Harwood* were, only halfway through their task when it came on to rain and snow, and it to.ok the party three days to get through 10 to 12 miles of bush. When they did get through, they found themselves tied up with bad weather.

Evidences of the old scaling days warn | to he found on every hand—clulis, tins, i toHics, and so on. .Murphy Oia'ic. d I upon a pair of magnificent boar tu.-du in • excellent preservation. j —Heavy iSaow.— j Next- day they determined to make a raid, but when everything was ready to I nver ovo' the ciiri' it came on to snow heavily, with driving aleot, and in disgust they had to abandon the. attempt and struggle bock to Smith Harbor- -a •<ovry band of pilgrim-. Snow had fallen “ft deep every where, and the whole land- j scape was simply a white plain. It was , almost imposdldc to tell where the stunted ; Auckland Isl and hub began and the levi 1 i ernund ended. For hours they coo!:! not ! find the track, hut when they did hit I upon it they pushed on with the certain { knowledge that they were practically 1 tuckcrlcss. The weight of the snow bed ; pressed the trees right across their track, i and -'On either hand they could hoar the 1 cracking of trees which were breaking un- ; der the strain. Huge junks of snow tumbled down on their heads as they trekked ; on up to the kno;< in snow, snaked to 4 he skin and their hoots full. As one of them ; iemarkecl, “Thing- were ju«t anyhow ; When they stmarried through to Smith : Harbor they found their tent flattened out ' under the weight of I he snow, and they had i to use a prop to keej) up the ridge pole. \ ! fire was got going, and they had a meal c-f the last of their potatoes and tli-> few rer.iainintl biscuits. A bottle of rum un- 1 doubtedl” saved th” situation! For fv.o days they had nothing to eat hut limpets ; and tnuf.seU» oiiwh l M low- tide. Their j meals were regulated by the tide. 1 —An Exciting Smash.— Aft-er a week's delav and with replenished provisions, an excursion was made to Fly Harbor—the Adams loused rookerv. - It, was difficult, to make a. banding, which ; had to be attempted in the whaleboat. 1 Woftiri remained in --barge of (he launch while Hie ren airder of the party took the wl.slelvnat .asbcic. There was s, bitt sea, and the whaleboat was hurled against a rrr-k and fimr.shed up, all hands btiiig thrown into the water. After a few citing minutes each of the victims struggled over the rocks amt got ashore. They would have been completely trapped but. for thelaunch, because they could nut -scale the clifTs behind the rookery, and could net possibly get away seawards. It is a trib- ; uto to their hardiness that thev hum? : diatnlv salvaged their gear and made for : the rookery. Seals were very iinintrous, and they had excellent luck. Th uvr wao a big element ,>f risk in getting off the nicker v, as- the launch could not- get alcci.side , the rookm-v. and each man had to seize his ; opportunity .and jump. This they did. and ultimately all got aboard. For a fortnight they worked the various Adams Island rookeries with the launch, and obtained no less than 200 fur skins. It was the best business of the tour, although the loss of the whaleboat was a serious one. i —36 oft Down.— On returning to Smith Harbor they ccir.cd a chance to t acjde the cave that I the snowstorm had prevented them doing ‘ previously. If was had 1 weather, but they I decided *to risk the drop of 560 ft 1 which they had to bo .let down by rope. Although this was a famous rookery in the olden days, the return was only 32 skins, wirch was very disappointing considering the risk run. It was groat fun, they /*aid, going’ drtrn tho rope, but coming ■ up ‘ again was' quite another matter, the jerk of each succeeding haul being discon- ; ccrtinjr.

—Rod Rock Rookery.— Red Rock Rookery, which la well known to every old sealer, was the next excursion. This rookery is on tbo west coast, and derives its name from a small red island which lies just out from it. The red is tlte color of brick, and has the appearance of hematite. A drop of oyer 500 ft is necessary, and lias to be taken in two shifts, the whole of the party’s 125 fathoms of line being put into commission. They spent three days there in bad weather, the tea breaking right into their camping cave at times. They caught only 70 seals, whereas they expected to take at least 400. Needless to say, it was a big job getting back even with only 70 skins. It took Cross, Spencer, and Topi to act as winch for the occasion.

Each man had ICOlb weight of rope and ski its to carry back to Port Ross, a distance of nine miles over peaty, sudden soil. They were pretty well exhausted when they grounded their swags at Port Ross —Another Failure.— On the first fine day they slipped out of Port Ross in an attempt to roach Disappointment Island, the scene of the wreck of the Dundoiuild. They hoped to get about 1,000 skins there, but they never succeeded in landing, and after sheltering a week at North-west Harbor they gave it up and returned to Port Ross. It was The disappoiiitment of the expedition. The last visit was made to Bonnie Rookery to tho southward of North-west Harbor, and they obtained 50 skins there. That closed the season, and they had simply to wait for the Rachel Cohen to heave in sight. The brigantine did not arrive until 27th September. —■Narrow Squeak? —-

At Fly Harbor Moon was very nearly killed. He got into a hole where, he thought there was a seal pup, and stirred things up, but he found out too late that it was an old wig warrioi, and it at once attacked him. Maurice Topi saw the trouble, and called out- "Lie down and sham dead'” Moon olieyed instantly, and tho seal rushed out over him, only to be clubbed by Topi in tho open. On another occasion Maurice Topi was fighting away with a ?eal, trying to get in a knock-out blow, when the seal suddenly darted and hit him in the arm. Maurice dropped his club and book and grabbed the seal by tho flipper and slung it against a rock, where it. was stunned. Harry Harwood was a terror on peals’ flippers—three times a day was nothing! Ho gave up snoring after he- got on to the flipper diet,

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Permanent link to this item

https://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/newspapers/ESD19141031.2.12

Bibliographic details

SNOW AND STARVATION, Issue 15638, 31 October 1914

Word Count
1,869

SNOW AND STARVATION Issue 15638, 31 October 1914

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